‘A City’s Love Affair’ produced by Eric Moylan starring Andy Lee.
Andy Lee narrates the Eric Moylan produced Newstalk podcast ‘A City’s Love Affair’. picture: Oisín McHugh Photography.
A City’s Love Affair (produced by Eric Moylan and narrated by professional boxer Andy Lee) examines the relationship between the Limerick and sport, a place where there is 101,000 capacity across 5 stadia for a metropolitan population of 105,000 people.
What drives the passion for Ireland’s sporting capital? Why do fans still come out in droves to support the hurlers despite many never seeing the Liam McCarthy cup come back to Shannonside after winning the All Ireland hurling final? Businessman and sponsor of hurling in the county JP McManus was once a part owner of Manchester United but seeing the Red Devils lose at Old Trafford is nothing compared to seeing the Treaty Men fail, “It’s no comparison…It didn’t bother me [seeing united lose]. I wouldn’t think of it the next morning, oh, Man united had a bad game yesterday. But I’m afraid if Limerick got beaten you would feel the pain of it for a while afterwards.”
Why did fans of Limerick FC stay with the club when they were struggling to field a team at the bottom of the first division? Kevin Kiely of the fan group the Blue Army explains, “We could never walk away from this. This is in our blood now.”
Thomond Park, “The high alter of rugby in the country” according to former Ireland player Tony Ward, is the biggest home provincial stadium in Ireland. It has been the scene of miracle matches, last-gasp drop goal victories and agonising defeats. Support for the team is fervent in the town and that isn’t lost on the team. Player Keith Earls was a fan sneaking over the wall as a child and now is gracing the hallowed turf, “I’m quite blessed to play for one of the best teams in Europe, if not the world, and live at home.”
Sport “puts everyone on an even keel, it doesn’t make a difference who you are or where you come from” according to Irish women’s rugby captain Niamh Briggs and community guard in the city. She is just one of the many people and organisation which use sport as a social cohesion tool. Ger Barry is the President of the Southside Boxing Academy in Southill, an area that has struggled with criminality in the past. The role the club plays is straightforward, according to him: “The best way to put it is, if this boxing club wasn’t here you would have kids up to mischief outside on the street…If you get into hassle outside you’re gone from the club. The crowd we have we never have any trouble.”
These are the passion which are explored and probed. Athletes and fans will illustrate the role sport plays in the city and their lives. A City’s Love Affair will bring the listener into the terraces to hear from the fans, the boxing gyms to hear how sport keeps people on the straight and narrow, the pool and track at the University of Limerick to hear from Olympic hopefuls and the homes of athletes to hear what drives them.